Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lucky Last London Looksees

We woke early on our second to last full day in London, so as to pack goodness into every moment possible. At the recommendation of our fast friends made our final day in Morocco, we went to Monmouth Coffee, close to the Seven Dials and Neal's Yard in Covent Gardens. We were dismayed to find that in spite of (and perhaps due to their purism in) their superior coffee, they do not serve soy milk, nor do they offer any non-coffee beverages. Ted with his distaste for coffee, and me with my hankering for a latte, Monmouth Coffee was not the place to be.

Instead we wandered Neal's Yard.

(monty python used to live in neal's yard, apparently)

We ended up getting reeled into a cafe there. Skeptical at first of the pushy staff, lack-luster menu descriptions, awful decor, and ear abusing music, we ordered and hoped for the best. In the time between ordering and being served we saw three couples enter the restaurant, sit down, peruse the menu and leave without ordering.

Things started looking up after a trip to the toilet, and the discovery of the magically decorated interior. What went wrong with the rest of the restaurant remains a mystery.

And then, the food arrived.

And completely blew us away. This! This was far more than mere tofu eggs, veggie sausage, beans and toast. This was an overload of taste sensation!! (this all, was taken a picture of, but alas ted erased them from his camera. bah!) Each piece of "toast" was a medallion of flavorful chewy goodness! Sun dried tomato, basil, and ginger, each was like a punch to the tastebuds. I freaked out, ate until I could not eat any longer, and then wrapped the rest of my medallions in my napkin and placed them in my pocket for a tasty snack later.

But enough about food.

We then happened upon Arthur Beale's, a yachting store that's well over one hundred years old. Hard wood floors, tiny drawers filled with everything from rope and compasses to brass fittings and golden anchor key chains, each with its own type written label. I purchased an amazing golden keychain that tells you the days corresponding to the dates of the year between now and forty years into the future. I purchased one for myself, one for Nathan (our generous host), one for Melina (who loves all things nautical) and one for my father (who loves gadgetry of all kinds and proclaimed that the keychain would probably work longer than the years he has remaining in his life, and then I threatened to take it back if he didn't stop being such a kill joy). I freaked out there too, and fell in love with the old man behind the counter.

Then we got lost, trying to find our way on foot from Covent Gardens to Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. And so, we stopped to ask directions from the most adorable, pink shirt wearing, french accenting, cigarette smoking man.

And then, I lost it.

The day had been filled with too much goodness and I could not take it any longer. I walked around with my hand affixed to my forehead for a few minutes, pretending that my knees were buckling under the weight of amazement. And then, Ted and I laughed and he made me do it again so he could take a picture.

Daunt Books was well worth the trek. We swooned over books with lovely cover art, the beautiful edwardian oak shelves that held said books, the skylights, the atmosphere in general, another overwhelming episode of these last london looksees.

(heres the interior from the second storey. on the banister you will find the stack of books that grew to an even more out-of-budget but necessary group of tomes that we walked out of there with)

Then we wandered around Brick Lane and saw some new art,

This had been carved into the wall.

and some art in process. . .

(space invader seemed to be the harbinger of good fortune. he followed us about the city. heres just a few sightings)

Then we met up with a few friends for dinner at Cha Cha Moon (also per the recommendation of our fast final friends from Morocco). It did not disappoint...

(andrew and leo !)

(we strolled about carnaby street afterward and found bill, lurkin)


On our final final day, we got coffee with Lindsey and Emma.

Emma did us proud by finishing a latte larger than her head.

We (and by "we" I mean Ted, because I am worthless when it comes to spotting celebrities) saw Martin Freeman, of British Office fame, getting a beverage of his own. Lindsey was super sneaky and took a photo of Ted and I with Marty pants bombing the photo in the background, when we were really bombing a photo of him - double whammo!

(Photograph courtesy of Lindsey Stealth Strobel)

And then we said see you later to Emma, and then she headed to work.

And then Lindsey, Ted and I continued on to Brick Lane in pursuit of (the best) bagels (in the world). And then we wandered around. And then I found a fifty pound note on the ground.

Yep. That's right. It was almost too good to be true, but then it really was true, and more freaking out ensued.

Then Lindsey had to rush off to work, and Ted and I spent the day dreaming about how we would spend it.

Then the time flew swiftly by.

We met up with Andrew, and spent our fifty pound note, and then some, on an amazing dinner in a double decker bus. (Andrew's first experience with vegan food. He gave it a thumbs up, and wondered why he had waited so long to give animal free food a chance.)

(thumbs up! to red lentil kofta)

(th' bus)

(panissa (chick pea puree rolled in polenta, then fried) and served with olives/sundried tomatoes and salad)

(melissa's oven braised tofu and carmelized onion tart with rosemary cream sauce served with oven roasted garlic and herb new potatoes with brussel sprouts)

(ted's nut cutlett (hmmm) served with soft polenta, drizzled with a red wine/mushroom gravy with mixed greens)

(whoa....chocolate fondant. fresh from the oven with ice cream and berries along with an ice cream platter.)

(andrew, satisfied)

(us, overwhelmed, mystified, overjoyed. money well found/spent)

(th' finished product, seen on the way back to the tube)

(high above greenland. parting with somewhere we've spent the most time in a long time was difficult, but the send off couldnt have been any better)